I was recently invited at Kuwait University to see the work of a studio researching ‘sustainability’ and solar design. They were attempting to manipulate microclimates through architecture to create livable and comfortable outdoor spaces from a site they picked around Khaldiya campus. I was glad when I saw one team choose the pedestrian bridge, which we discussed in the previous post, as their site.
The shading device they came up with was a tesselated, triangular, disturbed mesh (which they insisted on calling ‘origami’, even though it has nothing to do with folding). That was a cool idea, as some triangles would face the sun directly, and they made that into a photovoltaic cell. Others, facing north, would be open to the sky. That was good enough as an idea, but they inexplicably added mini-wind turbines which edged the design too close to being a parody for my liking. Just stick with one great idea and really develop it, and they came close with their roof structure. It was a very unique project and well worth seeing. Good job, guys.
They also added a cafe on the on the Adailiya side of the street and extended the shading device to cover that and the nearby parking spaces. I forgot there was a bus stop on the Khaldiya side, and that’s another reason to think that this can really be a great starting point for inciting pedestrian activity. I was glad that the team tried to do that in their project, but it could have been taken even further, maybe expanding the site to include the whole ‘mamsha’ as part of their design, turning into a larger scale ‘landscape urbanism’ project, with the focus of the project being a site aimed to educate people on the health benefits of exercise and proving that you can create architecture and landscapes that are comfortable even during the worst summer heat.
In general, I felt that most of the students unfortunately started the project with a defeatist mentality, thinking that there isn’t much you can do to manipulate the microclimate other than erecting some shading devices and calling it a day. I personally think that shading alone is not enough in the summer. You need to have a holistic design that includes evaporative cooling techniques, wind manipulation (pressure studies), vegetation and albedo/material analysis, but I couldn’t find a project that went beyond superficial shading devices as their solution to the heat problem. That’s not enough, but I was glad to know that they’re being taught the fundamentals of the subject. I was just hoping for a better final product at the end of the day.